Nick Hanauer is in the news a lot lately. Hanauer is a billionaire entrepreneur who was instrumental in calling for a $15 minimum wage and got one one in Seattle. The equivalent of $31,200 for full time employment doesn’t seem unreasonable for an adult trying to get ahead in the world. His arguments for the common sense and fair economics of this make sense and deserve a good look: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/07/18/to-my-fellow-plutocrats-you-can-cure-trumpism-215347.
I’ve been thinking lot about this lately since we got a call from our own local fair wage campaigners at #savethewage. When asked if we would be willing to sign on to keep the minimum wage for our employees, the answer was a simple ‘YES’.
The fact is we’ve been doing this for at least five years with our hourly, non-tipped employees. Right now we have no hourly, non-tipped employees making less than $12 per hour. We’re not proud of this fact, it’s still too low, but we’re committed to raising that number to $15 for these employees. As a whole no one in the front of house makes less than $12 per hour when you include tips. In fact, the number averages more in the $17 to $22 range.
Here’s the problem St. Louis: Farm to table food cost, Central West End real estate cost, and severe competition for foot traffic make it very challenging to cover the overheads involved in keeping a restaurant open paying the current minimum wage rate, let alone double that. Our prices on craft beer and cocktails are similar to most places in town. Our food prices are on the higher side of average due to the quality of ingredients we use, and we’re seriously looking at lowering them to stay competitive! Say what?!
Lowering prices seems like a backwards move with inflation only moving in one direction. The truth is we have to position ourselves as an “accessible” everyday kind of place that serves lunch, dinner, brunch, and happy hour, and hosts private events with fantastic fresh food and impeccable service. Our $13 farm to table, best-in-class burger gets praised for its flavor and slammed for its price-point.
My solution to this dilemma is to shoot first and ask questions later at the expense of the company and its shareholders: my family☺. The only way to get the whole thing on track is to drive more foot traffic in the door. The best way to have more foot traffic is to have a delicious, affordable menu, a great environment, and great service. The best way for more people to be able to afford to eat out is to pay them a living wage.
So we’re back to Nick Hanauer’s argument, did you read his article?